Sunday, March 12, 2017

March is for Making #12: Making Stuff leads to Making Community

This post is the second of four blog posts featuring our visits to school makerspaces on the island of Oahu, Hawaii . I’d like to offer a special thank you to maker-educators Michael Fricano for helping arrange the visits and for leading us on a tour of Iolani Schools -.  Today's post will provide you a peek into Iolani Schools -  Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership;  tomorrow  we’ll visit Iolani Lower School Fab Lab.

You can see a virtual tour of the Sullivan Center and learn about its programs, tools, and staff  on their web site.  It’s an amazing place!  But what most impressed us was not the amazing facilities and tools, but the way students and teachers were using the resources they had access to MAKE COMMUNITY!

When we talk about community in the concept of making we often refer to a community of makers forming in a  makerspace or at an event like a Maker Faire.

But the authors of Maker Centered Learning noticed that making  has the power to build an expanded sense of community. Makerspaces not only increase a students’ capacity to make due to increased skills and increased access to tools, space, and mentors,  but makerspaces can also
increase a student’s capacity to care for one another and those in their community.

The authors of “Maker Centered Learning”, express this perfectly when they talk about

“Paralleling the definition of agency as stuff making, agency as community making can be defined as finding opportunities to make things that are meaningful to one’s community and as taking ownership over that process of making either independently or with others”  p. 22

These words came alive for us as we toured the makerspace at the Sullivan Center at Iolani Schools.

The students at Iolani were not only makers of stuff, but makers of community.

Evidence of this was everywhere we walked during our tour starting with this incredible wall created by students to honor those visionaries that were eager to support student learning in their community. Students innovation is bringing independent donors together as community as they support creating and making as a vehicle for learning.

A closer look revealed not only the decision students made with choice of wood, but the craftsmanship and coding skills that controlled the LED’s that illuminate this donor wall.

Our tour brought us to such a wide range of spaces, from large flexible well lit community spaces filled to learn, collaborate, and design together…. classrooms where a community of  amazing teachers and mentors offered students opportunities to grow their skills and become a community of problem solver, designers, makers, coders, scientists,  and learners.

The Sullivan Center provides their community of students and teachers access to one of the most well equipped makerspaces I have ever visited.

But it wasn’t the wealth of tools and resources that amazed us as much as the way these tools were being used to make community!

The Iolani makerspaces not only increases students’ capacity to make  by providing them with skills and access to tools and space, but more importantly, it  increases their students capacity to care for one another and to develop empathy for others in their community.

Projects like this collaboration between  Iolani students and Access Surf (a non profit that offers adaptive water sports for people with disabilities) were one of several projects we learned about during our tour.

While listening to Gil Kilhour talk about the project, all I could think about was how amazing it would be to be a student in Mr. Kilhour’s class prototyping a paddleboard that can allow a guide to provide instruction for someone with disability to use the ocean as therapeutic recreation.

With passionate teachers like Gil Killhour on board, students at Iolani  have the opportunity to not only grow confidence and competence but to also develop an identify as contributing members of their community.  

Everywhere we looked we found places where students saw opportunity to make something that would be meaningful to their school and local community.   Sometimes they worked independently and  turned empty spaces or blank walls  into works of art that inspired their school community and its visitors.

This sensor triggered work of art was proposed by a student who put to use her sense of design, her skills with code, and the access to the water cutter available in school’s well equipped makerspace.

And sometimes they worked collaboratively, like in this elevator 3D Mixed Media installation that inspired so many during the short elevator ride to any of the 4 floors for their school.  

Looking high and low and all around,  students maker projects inspired all who learn, teach, or visit in this amazing space.  

The Sky’s the Limit for Iolani students!

One of many drones we saw on our tour.  Students designed this one to to collect water samples from community waterways.

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